The Peekskill Democratic Committee was forced Thursday night to fill a vacancy on its slate for the November citywide election.
Committee Vice Chairman Steve Kollias, who last month was selected to run for one of the three available Common Council seats, said he had to withdraw from the team because of a family illness.
“I don’t have the time unfortunately that is needed for the campaign,” Kollias said during a special Zoom meeting. “It was a very tough decision, but a decision I had to make for my family and me. I wish I didn’t have to make this decision. Things happen.”
Democratic Committee Chairperson Drew Claxton explained a Nominating Committee reconvened last week to find a replacement and unanimously settled on Robert Scott, owner of PK Blendz Juice Bar on Main Street.
Scott, a more than 20-year resident of Peekskill who was recognized by the city and Peekskill NAACP during Black History Month, said some of his top priorities would be affordable housing and youth programs.
“This opportunity isn’t simply just a moment for me. It’s a moment for the culture,” he said. “I strive to create a more equitable Peekskill. We must lead by example to show that anything is possible in this city. I look forward to this journey.”
Claxton called Scott “a terrific addition” to the slate, which includes Deputy Mayor Vivian McKenzie, who is aiming to succeed current Mayor Andre Rainey. Rainey opted not to seek a third two-year term. Incumbent councilmen Ramon Fernandez and Dwight Douglas are running for reelection. Fernandez is seeking a second four-year term, while Douglas, who was appointed last year to fill a vacancy, is running for his first full term.
However, before the slate is judged by residents at the polls in November, they will face a June primary challenge from a team called Progress 4 Peekskill.
Progress 4 Peekskill includes current Councilwoman Vanessa Agudelo, who failed to earn the committee’s support to run for a second term after being nominated by a district leader.
Agudelo made history as the youngest person to be elected to the council in 2017 and received a lot of publicity for her controversial stance not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at meetings.
Agudelo, who is employed as New York Immigration Coalition’s Hudson Valley Member Engagement Manager and is co-chair of the national committee for Local Progress on Reimagining our Economy, questioned the process of finding a replacement for Kollias during Thursday night’s Zoom meeting.
She maintained neither she nor her Progress 4 Peekskill council seat running mates, Amy Vele and Amy Perlow, were invited to meet with the Nominating Committee, despite the trio being part of a committee roll call vote last month. Instead, as a district leader, she was only sent an email about the special meeting.
“It could have been a more welcoming gesture if you want to bring together the Democratic Party,” Agudelo remarked.
At the top of the Progress 4 Peekskill ticket for mayor is Conor Greene, co-founder and board chair of Peekskill Walks, a resident-led nonprofit advocating for safer streets and healthier neighborhoods.
It remains unclear when the Peekskill Republican Committee will announce its slate of candidates.